Psychological Self-Help

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39
Theories Explaining Stress and Anxiety
Each person's stress-level is not just the result of the problems
that have accidentally occurred in their lives recently. It is more
this chapter). For one thing we are surely, to some extent, in control
of how many and what kind of problems come along. More
importantly, as individuals we respond to a problem or stressor very
differently. Examples: being dumped crushes some of us while others
are happily dating someone else in a week or so. Being fired makes
some of us feel very incompetent while others are certain they can get
a better job. Having a handicap makes some of us think we were
meant to be inferior while others become obsessed with becoming
superior and do. Our theories must explain these enormously different
reactions to stresses. There are several relevant theories and each one
has something to teach us about self-help. We will briefly review four
explanations of fear and anxiety: constitutional, learning-behavioral,
cognitive-humanistic, and psychoanalytic. 
Constitutional factors--genes and physiology 
It is easy to overlook our biological inheritance but our genes
influence our health and our behavior from birth to death. Recent
studies of identical twins have yielded impressive results. For example,
blood pressure is estimated to be 60-65% inherited; only 35-40% is
determined by diet, exercise, learned stress responses, smoking, and
other environmental factors. There is pretty good evidence that
children of parents with serious psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia
and manic-depression) have a somewhat (not greatly) higher risk of
having the same problems. If one identical twin becomes
schizophrenic, there is a 50% chance the other twin will too. As
mentioned before, more schizophrenic children are born in late winter
and early spring. We don't know why. 
Most personality traits do not seem to be inherited, but there is
one exception--shyness (discussed at the end of the chapter). It has
also been reported that male abusers in a family in England have an
abnormal gene on the X chromosome. However, it is a very rare
abnormality; thus, not accounting for all the anger in the world. And,
some men in the family had the defective gene but were not abusive. 
In terms of other inherited traits, the activity level of 3 and 4-day-
old infants is slightly related to the anxiety level experienced by the
mother during the pregnancy. Hyperactive parents are several times
more likely to have a hyperactive child. Disorders, such as migraine
headaches and asthma, also seem to be inherited. Perhaps
physiological and chemical processes, like hypoglycemia and
proneness to alcoholism or epilepsy, are partly genetic. Identical twins
are frequently similar in terms of enuresis, menstrual complaints, and
nervous habits, like nail biting, or mannerisms, like rubbing their chin;
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